Food must not be placed on the market if it is unsafe. It is unsafe, if it is injurious to health or unfit for human consumption. In determining whether a food is unsafe regardless is had to the normal conditions of use of the food by the consumer at each stage of production, distribution and processing and to information provided to the consumer including labeling and information generally available regarding the avoidance of the specific adverse effects of a particular food or category of food.

In determining whether a food is injurious to health regard is to be had not only to appropriate probable immediate and short term effects or long term effects, but also on subsequent generations. Regards is also had to the probable cumulative toxic effects and to the particular health sensitivities of  particular category of consumer for whon the food is intended.

In determining whether food is unfit for human consumption, regard is to be had as to whether the food is unacceptable for consumption according to its use for reasons of contamination or by extraneous matter or through purification, deterioration or decay.

Where unsafe food is part of a batch, lot, or consignment of the same class or description, it is to be presumed that all food in the batch lot or consignment is unsafe unless it is shown that the rest of the batch lot or consignment is not unsafe.

The EU legislation establishes the HACCP system. Food must be handled in a hygienic way at all stages of production.

The proprietor of a food business must ensure the preparation, processing, packaging, storing and distribution of foods in a hygienic way. It must ensure that all steps and activities which are critical to ensuring food safety are identified and that adequate safety procedures are implemented, maintained and reviewed on the basis of principles used to develop the HACCP system;

  • analyzing potential food hazards in the business;
  • identifying points at which those operations where hazards may occur;
  • deciding points critical control points
  • identifying effective control and monitoring;
  • reviewing analysis of hazards, critical control points and control the monitoring procedures.

If a food business proprietor fails to comply with the requirements or put a system in place, he is guilty of an offence subject to prosecution or summary offence. As with other legislation where the offence is committed by a body, corporate, by a person acting on its behalf as director, manager or secretary or other officer, such person may be independently guilty of the offence.

The EU food hygiene regulations require that the premises be kept clean and maintained in good repair. The required layout must be sufficient for the cleaning, disinfecting and following good hygiene practices to protect against cross contamination. There must be an adequate number of washbasins with soap and equipment for hygienic drying of hands and suitable means of natural or mechanical ventilation together with sufficient drainage facilities for the purposes of intent. They must be designed and constructed to avoid the risk of contamination.

States must develop guides for food business sectors the food safety management guidelines produced by the national safety standard Authority of Ireland are applicable.

The traceability of food, feed and food producing animals must be maintained. Substances used or intended to be incorporated in food or feed must be established at all stages of processing, distribution and production.

The business operators must be able to identify any food, food producing animal or substance intended to be incorporated in food. Operators must have a system and procedure to allow for the information to be made available to the authorities on demand.

There must be systems to identify other businesses to which products are applied. They must be made available on demand.

Food which is likely to be placed on the market in the EU must be adequately labeled and identified to facilitate traceability.

The principle of risk analysis is established. There are three interrelated concepts of risk assessment, management and communication. Risk assessment is to be made on the basis of available scientific information in an independent, objective and transparent manner. It must take account of risk assessment and the opinions of the European Food Safety Authority as well as other relevant factors.

EU food law also establishes the precautionary principle. This applies, where  following an assessment of information the possibility of harmful effects are identified or uncertainty exists. Provisional risk assessment measures may be taken based on the precautionary principle.

The regulation provides for the

  • Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).
  • Adaptation of emergency measures.
  • Crisis management.

The RASFF system deals with the notification of risks to human health, animal health or the environment within the EU network of competent authorities. The EU Commission has power to take emergency measures where  food or feed originating in the EU or imported is likely to constitute a serious risk to human, animal health or the environment and the risk cannot be satisfactorily contained by measures taken by the states. The Commission may take action.

Where there is a serious risk to animal or human health or the environment, the Commission may of its own initiative  request that member states take emergency measures. This may involve suspension of the marketing and use of the food in question or subjecting it to special conditions.

The EU has published guidance on the implementation of the EU food law. The purpose is to assist participants of the food chain to understand the requirements and apply it correctly.

The older Sale of food and drugs legislation 1875 to 1936 deals principally with the protection of the consumer against adulteration and fraud. It is an offence to mix color or stain any food article with an ingredient so as to render it injurious to health with intent to sell it as such or to sell it to the prejudice of purchasers, any food which is not of a nature, substance or quality demanded.The basic standards in the legislation have been eclipsed by the EU legislation.

The food hygiene regulations deal with the prevention of danger to the public health arising from the manufacture, distribution and  import and sale of food. They deal with the compositional standards for food. These regulations have been largely supervened.

The modern food hygiene rules derive from EU regulation. The EU rules provide for the organization of official controls on products of animal origin for human consumption. See our separate chapters in relation to rules regarding food of animal origin.

The food hygiene regulations 1950 as amended on numerous occasions were made under public health law. They have been  supervened by EU regulations/.

The regulations provide for

  • obligations on food business operators in respect of the hygiene of foodstuffs including general hygiene requirements (HACCP)
  • for registration of food businesses
  • keeping records and documents.
  • measures and conditions necessary to control hazards and ensure fitness for consumption of foodstuff taking accounted of their intended use.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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